We always knew that Valentine, Neb., was special. Thanks to the Citizens' Institute on Rural Design (CIRD), an initiative from the National Endowment for the Arts, Valentine's planned iconic Main Street redesign and reconstruction project will get a boost.
The Cherry County community is one of only four towns in the country to be selected to host a rural design workshop for the 2018 program year. These workshops will bring local leaders, nonprofits, community organizations and residents in contact with a team of rural planning professionals to come up with solutions to design challenges. The award-winning communities receive $10,000 to support the workshop and follow up programming. They also receive in-kind design expertise and technical assistance worth up to $35,000.
The timing is perfect, says Valentine Mayor Kyle Arganbright. "With the Highway 83 reconstruction project on the books for 2021-22, this project comes at a great time when we can build our capacity and define our vision."
Valentine has a convergence of several highways, including highways 20, 12, 97 and 83, which runs directly through Main Street.
Sadly, two anchor Main Street businesses — the Bull Market Beer and Grill and the Old Mill Bulk Food store — burned when a major fire struck in early June. While this fire destroyed a long-standing and well-known building along Main Street, Arganbright hopes that the new revitalization project will soften the blow and help incorporate any new construction into the planning moving forward.
This award plays into Valentine's long-range plans to revitalize its Main Street. "The timing is ripe for a major infrastructure project here," says Cynthia Nikitin, senior vice president for Project for Public Spaces Inc. and CIRD director.
"There is a window of opportunity to work with the community and the Nebraska Department of Transportation to redesign Highway 83, so it supports and enhances Valentine's sense of place," she explains. "Community readiness is high, and there is a desire for quick, clear wins. Besides, the partners have already hosted events that attracted both young and senior members of the community."
Like so many towns in Nebraska, Valentine's Main Street becomes a destination, a community anchor and a public space for residents and visitors. "Valentine is a retail, service and cultural center for ranches, farms and the Rosebud Reservation to the north in South Dakota," Nikitin says. "Maximizing the role of arts and culture can play as an economic driver for local and regional economies inspires this workshop," she adds.
"We hope that our project will become a model for other communities to follow," Arganbright says. "Highway 83 through Valentine is the second-oldest concrete in the state highway system," he adds. "But we want our project to be beyond just another new concrete project. We want it to represent our vibrant Main Street."
"Cherry County is known for its remarkable landscapes and recreational assets. Tens of thousands of recreation tourists travel through Valentine annually," Nikitin explains. "Main Street enriches the tourist experience by becoming a destination with its sense of place." The other communities selected for the program include Tuttle, N.D.; Las Vegas, N.M., and Greenville, Miss.
The workshop being planned for Valentine will bring together community members, tribal representatives and outside entity participants with four nationally recognized subject matter experts to help redesign each Main Street, help with marketing the area, develop retail and work in business establishment and retention.
For more information on the program, visit rural-design.org.